The Pygmalion, a Family Portrait, was not the original title, but on its completion, I sat down exhausted at the end of the day, and glanced at the picture. And then I fell in love with the woman standing on the right. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her.
Now, as a student, I was decidedly on the side of Plato. The idea of form, the ideal of Beauty, Beauty as Truth, were all so stunningly real to me – me in a class of rough-and-ready DYI Aristoteleans, teacher included. Likewise, Evil, Ugliness, Falsehood – one had no doubts when you saw, experienced, suffered them. When you came across Beauty – a girl, a woman, a novel, a poem, a song, a cityscape – it hit you hard, plain and simple. No lingering doubts, no room for debate, nothing to explain, declaim, describe. You either got it, or you didn’t.
Love at first sight, love at first listen, love at first read.
Let’s skip the first object/subject of love, as it is the last love object/subject, but at first listen, I know it was Elvis and the Beatles, this just barely into elementary school, with the album cover of Elvis in a gold suit, while the latter was a double album with a silver graffitti-like cover, an album I still have.
The first movie I ever saw at a cinema was The Song Remains the Same, by Led Zeppelin, and they were number one on my list of favorites for a short time because then Saturday Night Fever and, more importantly, the Sex Pistols became the huge life-transforming experiences that changed my cultural mindscape.
At the same time, sane time, I loved Fellini movies, went to the Seville Theatre to see art and cult films on a regular basis, and read Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and the Russian classics also on a pretty regular basis, simply because they did something for me, to me.
They blew my mind. They were objects of beauty – beautiful, intricate, rich, abundant, corpose or full-bodied Language, huge spirits formidably described and depicted, and reading made me a participant, or maybe just a nosy neighbour with voyeuristic tendencies, which every writer ought to possess.
(Oh, and since we’re harking back to those formative years, few would dispute the striking looks of Brooke Shields, in the famous jean ads, or in Pretty Baby, the starlet an obvious jaw-dropping mind-altering beauty.)
Visually, too, the works of Michelangelo, paintings and sculpture, were of Platonic Perfection; whatever it was he wanted to portray, there were no doubts he got it absolutely right -and why he Towers above all else.
Picasso turned things on its head, why he is a great, but there are, too, the small more intimate delights, luminiscent beings in poetry, or lines of poetry, and we each have our favourites.
And then there’s Macbeth, King Lear, Richard III, etc.
Now what do you do? You want to possess this beauty, read it over and over again, discover heretofore undiscovered nuances, the object of beauty like a disco mirror ball – rich, multifaceted, a being beautiful in itself, enrichened by the infinite number of reflections of which it is the source and centre.
You observe it, watch it arise from the painting, imagine a prequel, sequel, an afterlife external to the painting wherein it is trapped, and it is one with you as only a few of the previous paintings are. Most are like discarded lovers,or lovers who dropped you, or unrequited love, or brief flickers of love, palliatives against loneliness, or plain sex and a need for intimacy, and bodies, but in The Pygmalian, there is more, something deeper, more profound: the summation of one’s powers, weaknesses, an element of chance, a fate, joy, loss, sadness.
Fortunately, life is grand, life is beautiful and rich because, in the end, we know deep down what makes it all worthwhile, why, in fact, we keep on dancing and painting to our favourite Tunes.